Look for these clues to solve the social impact mystery

If you’re a leader in your company who is responsible for improving employee productivity, recruiting, and retention, how can you figure out whether your workplace could use a little tune up on its approach to social impact activities and community engagement?

Here are 9 clues to help you solve the mystery.

Clue #1: The Self-Appointed Director of Recycling

Who’s in charge of going green at your company? Do you know? Is there such a person? Maybe it’s nobody. Maybe it’s even you! In lots of companies, employees are doing everything they can to create a socially responsible lifestyle in the workplace to match the socially responsible lifestyle they lead outside of work. And that includes respecting the environment. It’s not uncommon for leadership to emerge from within the employee base, with two or three employees making sustainability their personal mission, sending out email reminders to turn off lights, ensuring that every desk has a recycling bin right next to it, even replacing plastic forks and knives in the break room with real silverware to cut down on waste. In light of the fact that 86 percent of young employees would consider leaving an employer if the company’s social impact values no longer met their expectations, self-appointed employee leadership can be a very good thing in a company. But how can an employer encourage employee leadership and still keep the business humming along, optimizing human resources toward the company’s bottom line? That is the question! How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? A self-appointed director of recycling just might be your first clue.

Clue #2: Your Inbox Isn’t Big Enough Anymore

Are you getting more and more letters and emails asking your company to support worthy causes? Do invitations to charity events land in your inbox almost every day? Do some of these requests come from important clients and customers? Do some even come from employees in your own company? How do you know which causes are worth supporting? You are not alone! The number of nonprofit organizations is increasing steadily, at the rate of nearly 30,000 new organizations each year. The total number of nonprofit organizations in America now totals over 1.5 million! No wonder your inbox is filling up. Your inbox isn’t likely to be empty anytime soon. The socially responsible lifestyle is here to stay. At home, and in the workplace. Indeed, 83 percent of consumers are willing to change their consumption habits if it can help make tomorrow’s world a better place to live. But that doesn’t mean you can’t regain control. Optimizing your social impact budget is a great place to start. By streamlining your company’s employee engagement and social impact activities, you’ll be better able to meet your budget goals and improve employee and brand engagement at the same time. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? Your inbox might be your second clue.

Clue #3: Your Program Isn’t Popular

Got a matching gifts program at the company? Lots of good companies do! A matching gifts program can be a terrific part of a corporate community engagement program. Why is it, then, that the average participation in employee matching gifts programs is only 7 percent? Especially considering that 88 percent of new job seekers choose employers based on strong corporate social responsibility values. The truth is that employee matching gifts programs often aren’t structured the way employees wish they were. Is the program a genuine employee benefit, designed to celebrate the causes that are most important to the employees? Or is the purpose of the program to direct employees to give to the company’s favorite causes? Either purpose can work. The trouble is that most companies don’t know which purpose is best for the company. So there’s just no clarity, for anyone. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A social impact program framework can help determine which elements your social impact program should include and how to divide the roles and responsibilities for the program in your company. The right structure for your social impact program will increase employee participation, improving employee and brand engagement and fostering the socially responsible lifestyle in your company, a priority for today’s employees and customers. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? If your program isn’t popular, you might be onto your third clue.

Clue #4: To Brag or Not To Brag. Is That Your Question?

Your company is doing a lot! You sponsor charity and civic events. You give employees time off to volunteer. You donate to your customers’ favorite causes. Your recycling program was up and running long before recycling was popular. Every member of your executive team serves on at least one community board or committee. Your pro bono work and product donations increase every single year. But should you talk about it? Is it too self-serving to celebrate all of that doing good by mentioning it in your public relations and marketing communications? If that’s your question, good for you! Humility is a good thing! But what if you could stay humble and share your stories, too? Impossible? No way! Not if you’ve aligned your social impact program with the company’s mission. When it comes to social impact, figuring out the best mission–for the company, its employees, its customers, and the community–is a best practice, practically guaranteed to give you the ability to do good, stay humble, and spread the word. All at the same time. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? If “to brag or not to brag” is your question, you can be pretty sure you’ve found your fourth clue.

Clue #5: You’ve Got CMC (Cause Marketing Confusion)

You see it everywhere! Companies and brands aligning with causes. And promoting it, everywhere. In advertising. In office and retail locations. On packaging labels. In new product promotions. All over social media. Even sometimes wrapped up in the brand itself. Feeling a little left out? Not sure where to begin? Not sure cause marketing is a fit for your company? Don’t worry. If you’ve come down with a case of cause marketing confusion, you’re in good company. Literally. Plenty of top-notch businesses have yet to add cause marketing to their to-do lists. For very good reasons, too. What if the company selects a cause that backfires, making customers and employees mad instead of happy? What if the cause has a bad reputation you weren’t aware of? What if the company spends more money on the cause marketing parts of the product or service than the profit it makes? All very good questions! A case of cause marketing confusion might turn out to be a very good thing. It means you are taking your time, weighing your options, looking at return on investment, determining whether your business really needs cause marketing as part of its social impact and community engagement program. The answer may be yes. The answer may be no. Either one can work, and work well. But without the analysis, you’ll never know whether you picked the right answer. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? If you’ve come down with a case of cause marketing confusion, congratulations. You’ve stumbled onto your fifth clue.  

Clue #6: Where Did This Foundation Come From?

It happens. Someone in the office is cleaning out a filing cabinet, recycling old papers, creating space, decreasing the carbon footprint. All good! And that someone stumbles on an important-looking file. A file that doesn’t appear to have been touched for a while. As in a few years. “Do we have a corporate foundation?” that someone asks. “I’ve never heard of it.” Where did that foundation come from? Perhaps it got lost in the shuffle of the merger. Or maybe the person in charge of the foundation retired last year and it’s just never been reassigned. Or maybe a handful of people know all about it, but the everyone else is in the dark. It happens! And it’s okay. Because something can be done. Build an action plan for your corporate community engagement or social impact program, including activities, program structure, timeline, budget considerations and roles and responsibilities to create an effective socially responsible lifestyle for your company. Make sure your roadmap reflects best practices in social impact. And that includes mission alignment with the company’s business, strategic selection of causes, efficient program structure, employee engagement, measuring progress and communicating success. Corporate foundations are easy to manage if you have a plan. But they’re not so fun if you don’t have a plan. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? Got a foundation that doesn’t fit? That’s a pretty good clue.

Clue #7: When You Whiteboard Employee Engagement, You Get Modern Art

Oh my. It makes no sense. It’s all over the board. It’s modern art. Wellness. Volunteer hours. Dollars for doers. Serving on boards. Going green. Selling Girl Scout cookies and golf tournament tickets. Fundraising campaigns. Matching gifts. Employee satisfaction surveys. Strategic planning processes. Team-building retreats. Canned food drives. Jeans day. Taking up a collection for a ill colleague. Put it all up on a whiteboard and it looks like modern art. Or alphabet soup. Or just plain chaos. Chaos isn’t always a bad thing. It means you’ve got lots of enthusiastic employees who are excited about giving to charity. And volunteering. And leading. And recycling. And taking care of themselves and others. But chaos simply is not an effective social impact plan. Chaos won’t get your company the employee and brand engagement it’s looking for. A social impact program should follow best practices if it’s going to be as successful as it deserves to be. That means defining the program. And setting goals. And building a framework. And a roadmap. And implementing it to get measurable results. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? If you get modern art when you whiteboard employee engagement, you’ve discovered a pretty big clue.

Clue #8: Where’s the Glue?

Virtual offices. Remote workstations. Flex time. Multiple locations. Your employees are spread all over the place! What’s the glue that will hold them together, creating the corporate culture of success you know you need for the company to succeed? That’s where social impact activities can come in handy. Get your employees involved–on your terms. What’s hot when it comes to engaging employees in a social impact program? Surveying employees is a great place to start. That way, you can determine existing and potential levels of engagement in a corporate giving program and set your goals accordingly. You can even start an employee giving campaign to engage everyone in a handful of strategic causes that bolster the company’s market position. Or perhaps consider establishing a birthday program for employees to celebrate each person’s gifts to the community. Or start up an employee education program about how your employees can make the most of doing good. And it doesn’t have to break your budget. social impact. Employee engagement. You have to do both. Why not combine the two and get the most bang for your buck? How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? Maybe the missing glue is a clue.

Clue #9: What happened to all the talent?

How’s it going, acquiring top talent? And retaining that talent? How successful are you when it comes to getting the kind of people your company needs to stay at the top of its industry? If you’re not attracting and retaining the stars, maybe it’s because you don’t have the right social impact plan. After all, 88 percent of new job seekers choose employers based on strong corporate social responsibility values. And 86 percent of these employees would consider leaving if the company’s corporate social responsibility values no longer met their expectations. Employees–and consumers–want a socially responsible lifestyle, at home and in the workplace. They want to give money to favorite charities. And volunteer time to a favorite cause. And recycle, helping to keep the environment sustainable. And serve in leadership roles, like nonprofit boards and committees at kids’ schools. They want to buy products that support a cause. And care for people in need. And care for themselves and their families. Working for good companies–doing business with good companies–is a must-have in any socially responsible lifestyle. How do you know your company needs a formula for social impact success? If you’re wondering what happened to all the talent, that might just be your biggest clue.